The horn sounded and melee began. All 303 athletes competing in the full 140.6 mile race abandoned the safety of the beach for the chilly waters of Lake Erie. The water was black and muddy at the start, it matched the tone of the wetsuits worn by most of the competitors. It didn't bother me since the water got better by the time I dove in and began my freestyle. Early in the race a woman next to me hit me square in the jaw as I was coming up for air. The force of the blow submerged my face at he same moment I was taking a breath. It took a few moments to cough out the water but I never stopped swimming and had an uneventful and fun swim after. I was also very straight with my navigating and that made the swim much easier.
|Exiting the water after 2.4 mile swim.|
As I hopped on the bike and sped away from my friends and family, I was all smiles. I thought to myself how fun that swim was and I was filled with a feeling of total bliss. That feeling would be short-lived. The euphoria I experienced riding on the Cedar Point Chaussee was replaced by horror when I turned onto Route 6. I made the turn and headed NW on the state route. As I made the turn I caught a glimpse of my shadow on the road......something didn't look right! I noticed that the rack holding two water bottles behind me looked like it was missing a bottle. My immediate thought was, "Please let it be the bottle on my right that is missing." It wasn't, It was the one on my left. The missing bottle contained a spare tube, patch kit, inflation device, CO2 cartridges,tire lever, multi-tool and a special attachment called a "crack pipe." A crack pipe is a special tool I needed for a tire change on my disk wheel. Very few riders would be carrying one of those if I needed help.
|Me in Milan minus one water bottle.|
As much as I love cycling, I am not convinced the human body is designed to do it for long distances. At the end of the 112 mile ride, my hips and feet were both very sore. Not exactly the ideal scenario at the start of a marathon for a guy who is hardly a runner. The first couple of steps I winced from the pain from the bottom of my feet, I wasn't even out of the changing tent at transition. I put on a brave face and headed out where my wife was waiting, I waved, smiled and headed out for a 26 mile run.
The pain in my feet slowly disappeared and I was free to "run." The fatigue created by the first two legs of my journey caught up with me on the third, no surprise. I ran most of the first of two loops, walking at each aid station as I replenished fluids. I made it back to the start of my run only to have to turn around and do the whole thing over one more time.
I was optimistic as I headed back out, I saw my wife and mom who were now joined by my aunt. Seeing the three of them bolstered my spirits and kept my feet moving forward. The next 10 miles were long and filled with a mix of running and walking when I had to.
Since the run course is two loops I got a chance to see Brad during his run on three different occasions. Twice we spoke as we passed, one time we did a "stop-n-chat." After each encounter with Brad I got stronger and moved quicker, I hoped he was effected the same way.
The last three miles were fueled by the optimism that I would actually do this. As I reached the top of the only real hill on the whole run, I could see the transition and finish. Shortly after I could hear the festivities. I turned down the first chute toward the finish line, I heard a voice in the distance, "Is that you Jason?" It was Dee and her husband Greg. I can't remember what else they said but I remember they both started running with me and yelling. It was sooooo exciting and I will always remember that as the start of my magical finish!
I turned the corner and passed my Dad who had found a place to park 200 yards from the finish, I could hear him yelling for me and my legs grew stronger and my pace increased again. I knew that once I passed him he would be on that Iphone, sending a heads up to my mom and wife that I was on the way and relaying the new to those who could not be there in person.
Ann was within two feet of me when I crossed the finish line, my mom and aunt too. All of them misty-eyed from the emotional moment. I hugged them all, truly happy and for once amazed at what I could do. The day was perfect, it exceeded my expectations and was worth every second of pain, sweat, and sacrifice during my training.
The moments that I will remember the most are the ones I spent with my family and friends! They made the day special and worked and sacrificed a lot to cheer Brad and myself on and give us strength when the fatigue started to show. Sunday was one of a handful of those magical days in my life that I will remember forever, and all of you that shared that special day with me will be part of those memories!
Thank you to Rabbit, John, Rick, Greg, Dee, Teresa, Brian, Aunt Marsha, my Mom and Dad and the most wonderful wife in the world!
A big special thanks to you Brad, I am not an Ironman today without your knowledge, encouragement and unwavering optimism. You made me believe that I could do something that common sense said I couldn't do. I am forever grateful!
|Brad and I after our Ironman adventure.|